I was asked to speak at an event to address a group of veterans to honor their service to our country, I did not know until later that I was asked to speak only because their first speaker had health issues that prevented him from attending. After I finished my talk and shook a few hands I found out just who I had “replaced.” The man that was supposed to address the veterans was an 87 year old veteran himself but he had just suffered a stroke and was now doing his best to recover in the care of a nursing home. He served as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific during World War II and fought his way through battle after bloody battle. This Marine veteran fought his way to the top of Mt. Suribachi and was one of the few who had a first hand account of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Amazing, the most copied, distributed and viewed photograph in the world was the flag raising on Iwo Jima and this man was part of the battle to bring the flag to the top of the mountain. Believe me, I would have much rather had the honor of listening to him that night. I was immediately overwhelmed; it was humbling to say the least.
This man is not just special because of where he fought; he is special because of why he fought. The American veteran is not just special but also extremely unique. They are the first in the history of the world to do something that until 1775, the rest of the world could have only dreamed of. Throughout world history, armies have come and gone and it doesn’t matter if they were rebelling slaves in ancient Rome or the feared elite Spartan warriors from ancient Sparta- none of them hold a candle anywhere near the American veteran. What sets the American veteran apart has nothing to do with the uniform they wore, the gear they packed or the ammunition they used. It has everything to do why they fought.
"This Marine veteran fought his way to the top of Mt. Suribachi and was one of the few who had a first hand account of the flag raising on Iwo Jima.....Believe me, I would have much rather had the honor of listening to him that night."
Prior to 1775, men were called into battle for many different reasons but mostly at the pleasure of their king or something similar, but in 1776 a revolution of ideas took place and for the first time in the history of the world, men would take up arms for the security of their liberty and the liberty of their neighbors. They would fight because they believed that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that governments and militaries are in place to protect our liberty. They took this belief, their gun and our flag into battle and they fought for us. Lord G.K. Chesterton once wrote that the definition of courage involves a contradiction in terms; he said that courage is having a desire to live that is so unbelievably strong that a person is actually willing to die fighting for life. I read this and thought about how appropriate this definition is as to why we celebrate and honor our veterans on Veterans Day; because as Americans, we understand and we remember that we have men and women who’s desire to keep us free is so unbelievably strong that they are willing to die for that freedom. This is why the American veteran is special. This is why every single one of them deserves our respect and our admiration and just a simple thank you to them is quite literally the very least we can do to show our appreciation.
Sometimes I think it can be easy to assume that veterans are just those guys who wear patches or hats with pins and ribbons on them. It is easy to think of young people when we are putting a care package together for the troops serving overseas during the holidays but in just a couple of years, many of those 22 year old soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines are going to be 24 year old veterans. We have brave Americans all around us today; we cross paths with them daily and many times we only recognize them if they are older gentleman wearing a hat full of pins and ribbons swapping war stories at Cracker Barrel. Most of them are much harder to recognize. He might be the young guy with shaggy hair and an earing that just handed you your fries at in the drive through at McDonalds but two years ago he was a technician on a ship in the South China Sea. He is the recent college graduate who worked his way through school in spite of two tours of duty overseas. She might be the voice at the other end of a courtesy call from the online service you used to arrange your family vacation but three years ago she was a 21 year old medic working with wounded troops in Germany. He is the highly successful businessman who is always in hurry and the homeless man with nothing to brag about but his Ranger tattoo. He might be a state representative who wishes he could see his friends again and would give anything to go on just one more field op with his old platoon even if it meant a month in the dirt. They are everywhere. They are in our hospitals and veterans homes where once again they rely on each other to keep company. Our vets are everywhere and no matter what their circumstances are today, they deserve our gratitude.
Please take every opportunity you can to thank veterans for their service. There will come a time in the not too distant future when we will not be able to thank them anymore. That Marine who fought his way up Mt. Suribachi and witnessed the flag raising will not be with us forever, in fact, it won’t be long now until no one will ever be able to thank him again. They are all special and they are all unique. When we consider the blessings that God has poured out on our nation, we would be missing the most spectacular blessing of all to not realize that someone would be willing to lay down their life for our freedom. The only word I can honestly think of to describe someone like this is amazing, God bless them all.
(The following is taken from a letter to the editor, written by my former teacher, to the Pensacola News Journal. I'm thankful that there are still educators out there who understand the importance of sound financial principles.)
During our eight years under the Bush II administration, we added $4.9 trillion to the national debt. When Mr. Obama took office, the debt stood at $10.6 trillion. It is now closing in on $17 trillion (up 6.4 trillion) after less than 5 years of the Obama presidency.
In 2006, then-Senator Obama stated that “raising America’s debt limit” was “a sign of leadership failure.” He continued, “increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally” and that “Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
Flash forward to September 18, 2013 and he states “raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt; it does not somehow promote profligacy.” Rhetorically speaking, what changed?
Is the President afflicted with the same ‘flipfloposis’ that a substantive number of elite politicians suffer from? Perhaps the CDC should run some tests on the political schizophrenia that apparently pervades Capitol Hill, place the District of Columbia in quarantine, and dust off the Tenth Amendment to restore rightful power “to the States or to the people.”
John W. Heckel Pensacola, FL
Are the Founding Fathers too extreme? Is being an advocate for liberty or wanting to make the world a better place incompatible with military service? Somebody seems to think so. After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, an organization called Judicial Watch was able to obtain documents from the Department of Defense, which labeled the Founding Fathers as extremists and states, “participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service.” To be specific, it was the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) which claimed in a January 2013 lecture on “Extremism”:
"In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples."
The document further claims:
“Individuals who hold extremist views are in conflict with the standards expected of all military members, and participation in extremism is inconsistent with the duties of military service...”
“All nations have an ideology, something in which they believe. When a political ideology falls outside the norms of society, it is known as extremism. When extremists take their ideology to the next level and believe that it is the only right ideology to follow, it becomes supremism.”
My immediate questions involve trying to figure out who decides what the “norms of society” are and what do they mean by “taking it to the next level?” Does that mean holding a rally or protest? A letter writing campaign? Starting a petition?
But here is the really alarming statement in the document:
“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
In the twelve years after the terrorist attacks on 9-11 by Islamic militants, our nation has been engulfed in a Global War on Terror and we continue to seek out, identify and eliminate threats from extremists the world over. At this point however, it seems that extremism has been used so broadly that it can mean anything from a suicide bomber to the signers of our Declaration of Independence only because they signed a document highlighting the sanctity of individual liberty.
“Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
-Department of Defense Document, January 2013
We need to understand the parameters this document has set. The document states that you become an extremist simply because your political ideology doesn’t fit the norms of society. Who, we should ask, is in charge of looking at the 300 million plus people in our country and gets to decide what the scope of normal is? How does the government establish whose ideas are normal and whose aren’t? From my understanding of history and the constitution, I have been under the impression that the 1st amendment was established to protect my right to express my ideology and thoughts and religion even if they were unpopular, or outside the “norms of society” if you will. Furthermore, the Department of Defense basically implies that those who advocate for states’ rights, a constitutionally identifiable mechanism of checks and balances, are also extremist.
Here is a real mind bender: the document states that, “Nowadays… many extremists will talk of individual liberties… and how to make the world a better place.” Huh? Lets follow the logic here. If the Department of Defense is setting policy for our military that identifies extremism as an ideology that falls outside the norms of society and they identify extremist behavior as those who advocate liberty and want to make the world a better place then it means that someone has already established that it is “normal” in our society for the majority of people to demonize liberty and to be so immoral as to not want to make the world a better place. What is going on at the Department of Defense that someone could actually get away with writing this? I believe just the opposite; the vast majority of Americans want to enjoy liberty and in fact want to make the world a better place.
Many people have always been under the impression, and rightfully so, that the point of American government was to protect liberty in an effort to make the world a better place. That might still be the case but apparently, someone has decided that the prevailing thought is something else. If you are in the group of people who still hold to the traditional, constitutional and liberty-minded school of thought, this document has branded you an extremist. According to this document, traditional American government and constitutionalism is now so far outside the scope of normal society that the Department of Defense must label it “extremism” and incompatible with U.S. military service. The irony here is that in order to become a member of the U.S. Military, one must still swear an oath to the Constitution, at least for now.
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What exactly is a tax an income? Most people understand income taxes to simply be a tax on wages and although that is a true assessment, I would argue that income taxes represent a lot more than the government taking a few dollars out of our paychecks.
Let me explain this. If I were going to pay you to mow my lawn, we would first have to agree on a price for your labor. You might look at my lawn and consider things like risk after all, there are going to be blades spinning near your feet. You might consider the time involved and maybe even how miserable it be to mow a lawn in the middle of summer when the temperature is 105 degrees. Lets say you agree to mow my lawn and considering the risk involved, the hot sun and assuming the job will take you an hour, you ask for $20.
After my lawn is mowed I give you $20 that you carry away and deposit into your bank. That $20 isn’t just a paycheck. It represent much more than a number in fact it’s direct manifestation of your labor. That $20 represents the value of an hour of your time and productivity.
When the government taxes your $20 then, it is really taxing your labor and productivity. Fundamentally speaking, an income tax is when the government is charging you for your productivity and time. If the government charges your time and productivity is too high in Missouri for example, it only makes sense that you might consider finding another state to be productive in; another state that doesn’t charge you as much for your own work. States that cooperate with your productivity are likely to have more prosperous economies than states that compete with your productivity.
"That $20 isn’t just a paycheck. It represent much more than a number, in fact it’s direct manifestation of your labor. That $20 represents the value of an hour of your time and productivity. "
When legislature begin to discuss tax reform and policy geared toward economic development, it is important they understand these simple principles and they really are simple:
Money works a lot like food, when the government devours more and more of the peoples money, the bigger the government grows and the less productive the people become for themselves; the more money people feed into their local economies as they buy and sell things to meet their needs however, the stronger our local economies grow. Lower taxes stimulate economic growth.
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The following is a guest post. John Heckel is a retired law enforcement officer from New York and currently lives in Pensacola, FL where this article appeared in a Letter to the Editor for a local paper on July 4, 2013..
Our Founders did not fight a revolution against tyranny simply to institute a similar government on their own soil. It’s been 237 years since they declared not only their independence, but their rejection of a long train of abuses and tyrannies.
Reading the Declaration of Independence today, I find that their concerns still resonate as government insists that it has the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on and pat down any individual at any time.
As Benjamin Franklin said and our Founders knew, those who trade liberty for safety get neither.
This is not simply a Republican versus Democrat issue. It is about people who believe in the Constitution and individual rights versus politicians in both parties who don’t.
This isn’t about party, but about people who believe in limited government against those who think it is unlimited.
We should heed the Founders’ warning: “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” Today’s government is one that our Founders warned us about.
– John W. Heckel
The following is an excerpt from my book, Don't Tread On Me! The Constitution and State Sovereignty.
Prior to America’s independence from Britain, the citizens of the British colonies in America were oppressed by a king named George III. Since George III was the king, the people had to live however he said because he was the supreme ruler. The people believed that King George had a God-given right to rule over them and that being the case, he was the only person who had any rights at all. In 1775 England, King George was sovereign. That is to say, inherent rights, such as freedom of speech and the ownership of private property, were not believed to be held by the individual, but rather, they were believed to be held by the king of England who was quite literally the government. The theory that kings alone were endowed by God with the authority to rule was known as “the divine right of kings.” It was through the application of this theory that the king claimed ownership over all the land in his kingdom. If you were fortunate enough, the king might grant you some land but even then it was understood that the king still owned it and could have it back at any time for any reason. Because the king was sovereign over the land, the land always belonged to him.
Because only the king was sovereign, not only did the land belong to the king but the people were essentially owned by the king as well. It was the king that established what social class you would be a part of. If you were lucky, the king might grant you a title of nobility and certain permissions with his land and people but it was still the king’s land and the people were still subjects of the king. It was the king that told you what you were and were not allowed to say. The king was the final authority on what religion you had to practice. The king also made the final decision on what taxes you must pay and how often you would pay them. The king was not a public servant, he was the absolute authority by virtue of being the son of the previous king. By way of nothing more than the simple luck of birthright the king was sovereign over his entire kingdom and everything in it and the ‘Divine Right of Kings” gave him the “natural right” to rule over all the people. There were instances in English history, though revolutionary and few, in which the English people declared, for specific issues, the supremacy of law over the traditional doctrine of the divine right of kings. You may remember hearing of such cases when studying documents such as the Magna Charta or The Petition of Right in history class. The most remarkable document to establish the principles of the rule of law came from the American colonies when the Second Continental Congress unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence to sever the political bonds that connected the colonies to Britain.
The specific purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to declare the separation of the American colonies from Britain. The Founding Fathers of American government believed that the sole purpose of government was to ensure the security of the people’s liberty and not for the security of the ruling elite. They also believed that the doctrine of the divine right of kings was an oppressive, moral transgression against humanity and that no government, man, or woman for that matter, had the right to rule over his fellow man without permission. Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and this date has been celebrated as the birthday of the United States of America ever since.
The Declaration of Independence is the cornerstone of American government. Although the United States Constitution provides us with the law that stands as the walls of American government, those walls only stand because of the self-evident truths and principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence. For example, look at the principles that Thomas Jefferson wrote into the text of the Declaration where it says “We hold these Truths to be self- evident, that all Men are created equal...” Stated here is the principle of equality. Although we are not created with equal physical attributes, abilities, or amounts of wealth, we are created equal under God and the Law. It is fundamentally important therefore that our system reflect this natural state of man by holding everyone equally accountable under the law so that everyone’s liberty might equally be protected. Furthermore, what you should really appreciate about this first principle of liberty is that it was being sent to a man whose power hinged on the lie that no one was created equal. By writing that this principle of equality was self evident, the founders basically told the king to grow up and move on from this fairytale belief that God divinely picked him to rule the world.
The Declaration of Independence goes on to point out that not only is it self evident that all men are created equal, but also, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It is highly important to understand that our rights do NOT come from other men, nor do they come from any government. So what does it mean that God gave us unalienable rights? Let’s break down the word “unalienable” by first defining the word “lien.” If you were to look up the word “lien” in a dictionary, you might find something like this:
Lien - a legal claim or a "hold" on some type of property.
So if our rights were “lienable” that means that someone would have a right to take them or hold them from us. The Declaration of Independence states that our rights are UN-A-LIENABLE, meaning that no one has any right to take them or hold them from us. Jefferson points out in the Declaration that among our unalienable rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Understand that Jefferson was not listing all our rights, he only said among our unalienable rights were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are unalienable because they are part of our being, they are inherent and a part of us just as much as our thoughts and dreams are.
Although no one has a right to take your unalienable rights, it is possible for you to allow someone else to suppress them; at the most, you can let someone claim ownership over you. For example, if you tell me that someone has taken away your freedom of speech, I will tell you that it is only because you decided that you were unwilling to speak. At this point, to some extent or another, you have allowed yourself to be enslaved.
The Founders often referred to our unalienable rights as being part of the Laws of Nature. In other words, our inherent rights are self-evident in nature just as much as other laws we observe in the natural world such as the law of gravity or even the laws of mathematics. Your right to speech is illustrated by virtue that you have a mind that can independently think. You do not need anybody to tell you how to think your way through the simple task of collecting drinking water in a glass or forming opinions about the weather. You also do not have anybody controlling your thoughts as you react to a movie you recently watched, a speech you heard or a book you read. Only you are in direct control of your thoughts and it would seem absurd for the government to pass a law telling you what you are to think and what you are not allowed to think. It is absurd because there is no way for them to know exactly what your thoughts are. The government has absolutely zero control over your mind and even if you break the “thinking laws” how would the government know and how could it enforce compliance? Your thoughts are an inherent part of you and therefore unalienable because you own them and only you can control them. The same God who gave you a brain and mind of your own also gave you a tongue and an ability to communicate your thoughts. You were naturally born with the ability to verbally articulate your thoughts and so your freedom of speech is meant to be as natural as your natural ability to speak just as natural as your ability to speak; you are using the faculties that your Creator gave you in order to manifest your inherent rights. These natural rights are yours until you die, at the most, you may choose not to exercise them however, no one has any right to take them from you.
The Declaration of Independence is quite remarkable for this statement, “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men.” This statement boldly declares that the only valid purpose behind the existence of any government is to do one thing: protect our individual unalienable and natural rights. Have you ever wondered how your tax money being sent to pay for a study on the mating habits of fleas does anything to protect your right to your own income? Have you ever wondered how Congress could introduce over 5,000 bills a year and all of them be for the protection of your rights? My guess is that most of those bills, in some way or another, do nothing more than infringe on your rights, even if it’s just by wasting your tax money or regulating what kind of light bulbs you are allowed to use. Now let me quote the previous part of the Declaration of Independence and continue on with the principle that defines the existence of the U.S. Constitution and tells you what this book is all about. This is the principle: “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Let me touch on the last part of that quote where it says, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It is from this that the principle of self-government is taken. From the Declaration of Independence, we can come to the conclusion that government is only legitimate if it does the following two things:
1. Secures and protects the inherent rights of the citizens
2. Operates with the consent of the citizens
One excellent way to establish your political world view would be to read the Declaration of Independence and use the principles it contains to filter what government does. In other words, if the government, at any level, is operating without having met the criteria listed above, then it may very well be infringing on your inherent, God-given rights to one extent or another. As you read through this book, you will understand that the U.S. Constitution was written with all the safeguards we need to keep our government accountable to the people so that we can stay free.
An important word to understand for general purposes when contemplating freedom is the word sovereignty. If you were to pick up a Black’s Law dictionary, you would most likely find a couple of definitions similar to these:
Sovereignty– Holding supreme dominion authority, or rule.
Sovereign– A person, body, or state bestowed with independent and supreme authority.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote “All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...” In other words, what our Founding Fathers were asserting was the fact that the King of England was not at all sovereign over the people. Simply because all men are created equal, all men are sovereign over their own persons, each one unto himself is bestowed with sovereignty at the moment of creation and therefore, each man, for lack of a better word, is his own king.
The easiest way to illustrate sovereignty is to give you the example of a man who owns one acre of land that borders an acre of your land. Lets say you notice that if you could walk across your neighbor’s land you could get to the grocery store faster. After some thought you decide that you would like to use his property for a quicker route but you know you will have to ask his permission. You must ask permission only because the land you want to use does not belong to you; you have no right to it. Let’s say that your neighbor does give you permission to walk across his land, but after three weeks he changes his mind and tells you he does not want you on his property anymore. As the owner of the land, he can do this without a reason because he is the supreme authority of his property; he is the chief ruler and he is sovereign of his land. You, however, can walk across your land, build fences on it, dig holes in it or burn your acre of land if you choose to because you own it; you have the right to it. You do not need to ask permission to exercise your rights to your land; you are sovereign. Now think about this: anytime you have to ask permission to do something you are asking permission only because you don’t have a right to it. You don’t need permission to exercise your rights.
It is important to understand that you are a sovereign individual. You are bestowed with the sole ownership of your person and therefore, you have the supreme authority over the inherent rights that God gave you at the exact moment of your creation. Your thoughts, as already discussed, are inherent because your thoughts cannot be separated from your mind and you are sovereign over your thoughts because you own them and you have the supreme authority over them and no one can take them from you. Alexander Hamilton may not have always been the best champion of limited government, but he was right when he explained,
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
Just for further understanding, you, and only you, own the rights to your body as well as the right to do what is necessary to preserve your life. You have a conscience that is inherent and therefore cannot be separated from you either. You have the inherent right of self preservation just by the self evident laws of nature that show us that our bodies’ sole function is to keep us alive and that by virtue of being alive you have a natural right to continue living. Your individual and inherent rights will always be with you until the day you die simply because they cannot be extracted from your person; you are a sovereign individual.
Although inherent rights cannot be extracted from us, the evening news is a constant reminder of the oppressive totalitarian governments around the world that enslave their people with mountains of red tape, oppressive taxes, imprisonment or worse. History is littered with tyrants who claim ownership of the people; regulating their speech, their religious practices, their pursuit of happiness, etc. Although it would appear that sovereignty can be taken away from the individual, the truth still remains the same: all men are created equal and we are all endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights; rights that cannot be surrendered, sold or transferred to someone else.
One of our Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry, is remembered for a speech he gave in which he declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” What Mr. Henry is enlightening us to, is the fact that there is no middle ground between liberty and slavery. You are never only half free or only one third a slave; you are either free or you are not. Either you claim absolute ownership over yourself, or you do not. Those men and women throughout history who died fighting for their freedom did, in fact, die free. The point is this: you will always be free as long as you exercise your freedom, even if you exercise freedom in the face of opposition, you are still free. The day you surrender your freedom is the day you enslave yourself, the only other alternative to slavery is death, hence Mr. Henry’s famous quote, “Give me Liberty or give me death.” Patrick Henry was choosing to live free even if it meant death. The question is this: will you fold and give yourself over to slavery or will you exercise your sovereignty and live free even if it means death?
In 1843 a young Massachusetts scholar of twenty-one years old was doing some research on the last surviving veterans of the Revolutionary War. He met a man that was nearly 70 years older than him named Captain Levi Preston who fought at both Lexington and Concord. Nervously the student asked him, “Why did you go out to fight?” The elderly Captain was rather stunned at such an obvious question and didn’t say anything but rather painfully straightened his back in his chair to raise himself up to full height. The young researcher followed up saying, “Well obviously you went out to fight oppressions.” “We weren’t oppressed” said the old patriot. The young man then asked, “Well what about the Stamp Act?” to which the veteran replied, “Didn’t pay a penny for a one of them.” The young researcher was beginning to get a little confused so he asked Captain Preston, “Well what about the tea tax?” “Never drank a drop of it” said Preston, “the boys threw it into the harbor before we got there.” “Well what about the great books on freedom? You must have read Locke and Harrington and Sydney.” The young student was rather disappointed when the old man simply replied, “Never heard of them. The only books we had were the Bible, Isaac Watts hymn book and an almanac.” By this time the researcher was getting a little flustered and looking for some kind of reasonable answer he finally asked, “Well, why did you go out to fight?” It was then that this old patriot gave this immortal answer: “We had always been free and we intended to be free always and the red coats were in our way.”
After several years of bloodshed, the British finally recognized America’s Declaration of Independence. Soon afterward, a new government was created with the ratification of the United States Constitution. Written over the course of several months of debate, the U.S. Constitution was composed for the purpose of establishing a government designed solely to protect the individual rights of its citizens. Our Founding Fathers established new and innovative measures to ensure that the new American government would always be in the hands of the people so that the government could only operate with the consent and particular involvement of the citizens themselves.
The United States Constitution could not be complete without establishing within it the principles of individual sovereignty and self-government as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Americans, unlike the people of any other country, have a governing document designed for the protection of the individual. We have a Constitution that we can fly as a personal standard just as our forefathers flew the Gadsden flag. It is a document constructed with the principles to serve as a warning to our government should it ever undermine the security of our liberty. The warning is clear, “DON’T TREAD ON ME!”
On September 11th, 2001 I was serving as a rifleman in the United States Marine Corps and was living in the barracks at Pearl Harbor while undergoing annual marksmanship training. I remember a Marine from the sniper platoon waking some of us up early that morning, shaking us nearly out of our racks and shouting: We’re being attacked, their hitting New York and the Pentagon!” I remember being filled with an overwhelming sense of urgency and duty, I didn’t know what we were going to do but I knew we were going to do something.
It wasn’t long before our troops were searching for Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan as they battled Al Qaida and Taliban forces. Back home in America, our D.C. politicians were nearly unanimous in their approval of any legislation crossing their desk that promised better security for our nation and almost overnight, the Department of Homeland Security was born to aid in our safety. National Guard troops patrolled our airports for weeks carrying M-16s and everyone seemed to unite and comply with the inconveniences of security as our government sought out the terrorists. Twelve years have passed and in 2013 these inconveniences have mushroomed into violations of our constitution and infringements of our personal liberty as uncontrollable and unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians implement rules and secret programs aimed at the American people.
"Twelve years have passed and in 2013 these inconveniences have mushroomed into violations of our constitution and infringements of our personal liberty as uncontrollable and unaccountable bureaucrats and politicians implement rules and secret programs aimed at the American people."
The nearly unanimous compliance with federal intrusions and mandates have entirely faded away and transformed into a nearly unanimous cry of outrage as we learn that our government will stop at nothing to feed its insatiable appetite for more power over the American people. It is true that many of us eagerly joined our nations leaders in an attempt to be patriotic; most of us did so not once entertaining the notion that the land of the free could somehow turn into the land of constant surveillance. Over the last twelve years many of us have come to an understanding; now realizing that we have been so careless with our liberty that we only miss it now that some of it is gone. The people of America are slowly but steadily waking up to the schemes of our government and yet our unconstitutional overlords continue to shirk responsibility by passing the blame when they have been found out.
We have a President who not only has demonstrated his resolve to maintain indifferent to letting our diplomats and troops meet violent deaths in spite of their pleas for help while they were attacked in Benghazi but he also allows his administration to morally transgress every other reasonable expectation of sound government as well. Earlier this year, the Justice Department secretly seized two months of phone records of editors and reporters from the Associated Press with a “secret warrant.” The idea of having a secret warrant to secretly seize someone’s papers and invade their privacy completely undermines the purpose of having a warrant in the first place. Warrants aren’t required for search and seizure in the Bill of Rights to protect the government, they are required to protect the citizen from tyrrany by requiring the government to provide proof to the citizen that checks and balances are being applied through due process to ensure that his rights aren’t being violated. If someone is going to break the law in secret do they really need to get secret permission from another secret person? This is absurd!
"The idea of having a secret warrant to secretly seize someone’s papers and invade their privacy completely undermines the purpose of having a warrant in the first place."
Furthermore, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has issued an order to Verizon to force them to turn over millions of their customers phone records to the National Security Agency. What’s even worse was that the order prohibits Verizon from telling anyone including their customers that their records were turned over! This same government has also inquired about purchasing 30,000 aerial drones for domestic use and our President had a really a hard time saying that they won’t be used to kill American citizens. This is what happens when a nation people fail to exercise stewardship over their liberty and jealously guard their God given rights from the abuse of those they have empowered.
The AP scandal, Benghazi, the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, the Fast and Furious cover up and the list continues to grow. Keep in mind that the man occupying the Oval Office in the White House is that same man who earned the votes of millions based on campaign speeches that went like this:
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“I have said repeatedly that there should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure and respecting our Constitution…”
- Presidential Candidate Barak Obama, 2007
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“I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorist without undermining our constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient, that is not who we are and it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorist…our constitution works.”
- Presidential Candidate Barak Obama, 2007
It is at times like this I am reminded of the very wise words of one of our Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, when he warned us, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Foreclosing on our liberty for the sake of security begs the question: What have we really secured? America has a great tradition of protecting freedom and now more than ever we need to hold the federal government accountable and demand answers from our congress and not let them let President Obama get away with his unprecedented overreach and abuse of power.
In 1968, a young Marine Lance Corporal named Stephen Daniel took a few minutes to mourn his friend who he lost in battle the night before in the jungles of Vietnam. The Lance Corporal wrote home to his parents the following night:
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Mom and Dad: Last night one more Marine died. No one will ever hear or care about it except his parents and us. There is no nation to mourn for him or fly our flag at half-mast. Yet this Marine did more for his country than any President or Senator ever did. His name was Corporal Lee Clark.
Just a few years after L.Cpl. Daniel lost his friend, Cpl. Clark, in battle, the U.S. Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971. Part of this act set Memorial Day to be observed as the last Monday in May rather than on a particular date on the calendar and with its passage Congress did little more than to create a national three-day weekend. In its 2002 Memorial Day address, the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated:
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"Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."
Unfortunately, I believe the VFW is right on the mark. While several towns still observe this day of remembrance, many towns and communities have lost their traditional Memorial Day parades to history. Many young people fail to recognize the ultimate sacrifices that American men and women have made during some of the most uncertain times in our nations history. Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words really mean.
By noon on Memorial Day, many people will have spent countless hours and even days planning some type of get-together for their family, friends or co-workers complete with BBQ and lemonade to enjoy as their kids play games in the yard. Many people will enjoy this time with their families and they will be sure to mention a soldier or Marine they know of that didn’t make it home but many others will only think about having a good time.
"Ironically, thousands of youths will take this day off from school only to sit inside all day and play video games such as Medal of Honor or Call of Duty without ever having someone explain to them what those words actually mean. "
This Memorial Day, please take a moment, not just to think about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but to talk about someone who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Mention to your kids that the reason the school closed down for a day was so they could have time to remember the kids whose father was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. We all need to do what we can to protect the sanctity of Memorial Day; to remember that it has more to do with body bags than BBQ. While we are getting together with some of your friends, lets have enough courage to mention the courage of those 18 year olds who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom to enjoy a day off in their honor.
Many people have personally known someone who has paid for our freedom with their life however; I would say that most Americans haven’t had the honor. If you don’t personally know of anyone that you can specifically remember on Memorial Day, lets do L.Cpl. Daniel a favor and remember his buddy Cpl. Lee Clark. Lets think about what L.Cpl. Daniel must have gone through and then think about how hard it must have been for Cpl. Clarks family the moment they received the news that there young son was killed by the enemy half-way around the world while he fought for his life and the life of his Marines. Then remember that these Marines and there families aren’t alone. Let’s not let these heroic deeds go without showing some degree of gratitude; lets be sure to demonstrate our gratefulness. 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl. Tremblay
U.S. Air Force Colonel, Walter Hitchcock said it best when he coined the term “Freedom isn’t free.” We have been blessed in America but it has cost our fighting men and their families dearly. To say that freedom isn’t free would also imply that it costs us each something as well. I suppose that if we only depended on the acts of others to keep us free without any sacrifice of our own then our freedom would be free but since freedom “isn’t” free, I would have to ask what have we done, as individuals, for the security of our liberty. Can we honestly say that we have completed the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers to ensure they didn’t give their life in vain? I would argue that each American has a profound duty to guard our freedom however we are able. Whether its working on campaigns or as an activist for some important issue or by showing up on election day to choose your leaders, we all have a responsibility to fight for freedom at home also. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “All gave some, some gave all” but would it be a terrible thing for us to let the greatness of our country slip away, little by little, election after election, only to have some of Americas bravest and youngest have given all for nothing? It is no small weight of responsibility that we bear, as Americans, to ensure that we complete the sacrifices made by our fallen countrymen.
It is incumbent on us to remember that the purpose of our entire government is to help keep us free, the military shares this responsibility at the risk of life and limb. Let us at home support and defend the Constitution that they swore an oath to support and defend. Two of my friends and Marine Corps brothers were killed in action in Iraq. I served with them both back in the early 2000s. I want to thank them both, 2nd Lt. Cathey and Cpl Tremblay, I miss them and I am honored to have known them and to have served with them and I will never forget what they have done for myself and my fellow Americans and I promise that I will do my best to complete the sacrifice they have made and I will always fight for the freedom of the people and for the security of their liberty.